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Peggy Baird and Free-Love

John Simkin

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In the early years of the 20th century, a group of socialists in New York City advocated free-love. This included Peggy Baird, a promising young artist. She was very promiscuous and had a series of affairs with several artists including Orrick Johns and Eugene O'Neill.

In 1917, Michael Gold, introduced her to Dorothy Day, a fellow journalist at the New York Call. The two women became close friends. Jim Forest, the author of Love is the Measure (1986), points out: "Peggy was an artist who lived in a large, wildly unkempt room and who was baffled at Dorothy's seeming immunity to sexual temptation." Peggy told Day that sex was "a barrier that kept men and women from fully understanding each other, and thus a barrier to be broken down".

In 1919 Peggy Baird married Malcolm Cowley, who wrote poetry and book reviews for The Dial and the New York Evening Post. They went to live in Greenwich Village where he became close friends with the poet Hart Crane. Despite the fact that Hart was a well-known homosexual, Peggy seduced him. In 1931 she went to live with Crane in Mexico. This ended in tragedy when Crane committed suicide by jumping from the ship Orizaba on the way back to New York City on 27th April 1932.




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